We started our day with a quick metro trip to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale de Napoli, which houses one of the largest and most extensive collection of Roman Archeological artifacts. Founded by Charles the Third of Spain in 1750, the museum features items discovered during the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The neoclassical building itself was beyond impressive, with imitation Greek columns on the facade demonstrating how identity can be built on influences from the past. Once inside, we were even more blown away by the collection ( which was inherited from the well-known Farnase family). The Farnase Bull, the largest statue from antiquity, was a definite highlight. Carved from a single piece of marble, it served as a testimony of wealth and power--a common theme represented in the overall grandeur and splendor of the statues in the collection.
A very interesting part of the exhibitions was the "Gabinetto Segreto," a collection of phallic and erotic art from ancient times. Because these artifacts were placed apart due to their perception as unfit and indecent, they became "pornographic," even though this was not their intended nature. Male genitalia was a symbol of power, used in art to demonstrate domination and scare away evil spirits. The fact that this collection is still shielded from the general public brings about an interesting discussion as to how history is created based upon the story we choose to enact.
Our second stop of the day was a trip to the Naples Duomo. We visited the baptistery built in the 5th century, which is located in the original portion of the church built on top of a Greek temple. The elaborately decorated ceiling mosaic depicted scenes displaying the splendor of heaven and the victory of Christ. It was very interesting to compare the use of the Jewish Mikvah to the below-ground baptismal fount, which is meant to reflect the Early Christian understanding of death in baptism. The rest of the church served as a crossroads of east and west influences, and features a vial of blood from the Patron Saint Gennaro (which is said to liquify for good fortune of the city). Even though we have visited many churches during our stay, their beauty and intentions have yet to cease to amaze me.
Caught in some brief rain showers (the first of the trip!!), we traveled to our final destination for the day, the Royal Palace of Naples. Built for Charles the Third of Spain, this enormous neoclassical style palace was meant to portray a message of intimidation and strength. This was very easy to understand as we walked up the enormous marble staircase and entered into the ornate rooms of the palace. The impressive use of rich colors and expensive materials, as well as skilled painting to create illusions of depth, made the palace a testament of skill and advanced proficiency in the arts.
As we continue on our journey, it will be very interesting to explore the concept of the multiple purposes of religious, as well as political sites.